Saturday, November 04, 2006

Maybe Marconi was wrong

A Canadian paper reports
On Dec. 12, 1901, Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi made history by claiming he had used a kite and some copper wire atop Signal Hill in St. John's to receive a wireless signal from across the Atlantic Ocean.

More than a century later, a group of radio scientists in Newfoundland are conducting a series of tests that could debunk Mr. Marconi's claim to fame.

"We're essentially setting out to prove it wrong," said Joe Craig, a physicist and director of the Marconi Radio Club.

Mr. Craig and several other researchers are using a combination of modern computer technology and vintage equipment to determine whether the inventor actually heard three faint, electromagnetic clicks -- the letter S in Morse code -- that were transmitted from 3,470 kilometres away in Poldhu, England.

Mr. Marconi garnered global acclaim for the incredible feat. He won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1909 and became known as the "father of radio."

"I had been absolutely right in my calculation," Marconi wrote at the time. "The electric waves . . . had traversed the Atlantic, serenely ignoring the curvature of the Earth, which so many doubters considered would be a fatal obstacle."

But in recent years, a growing number of skeptics have come forward to question Marconi's claim, saying it's more likely that he heard static or distant lightning.

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